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Specialized Infant Formula Shortage - Information for Families

Learn about the temporary shortage of specialized infant formulas and what you can do.

Infant formula supply

There is no shortage of regular infant formulas in Canada. Some stores are limiting how much regular formula people can purchase. This is a precaution only to help ensure a stable supply of regular infant formulas.

There is a shortage of specialized infant formulas for babies with food allergies and certain medical conditions. These hypoallergenic formulas include:

  • extensively hydrolyzed formulas for babies with moderate food allergies
  • amino acid-based formulas for babies with complex or severe food allergies.

Specialized infant formulas should be reserved for infants with medical conditions.

Health Canada does not recommend extensively hydrolyzed formulas:

  • to prevent food allergies
  • for infants who are sensitive to lactose, unless they also have an allergy or another medical condition requiring these formulas.

Health Canada has approved certain infant formulas from other countries to be sold in Canada during the shortage. These formulas meet the same safety standards as Canadian products.

Read: Health Canada's information for families during the shortage of formula for infants with food allergies.

How this affects you

During the shortage, pharmacies will keep hypoallergenic formulas behind the counter. Although they are behind the counter, you do not need a prescription for them.

Some families who use these formulas may be able to switch to a formula not in short supply. To do this:

  • Talk to a community pharmacist or
  • Talk to your baby's health care provider or
  • Call 8-1-1 to discuss your baby's needs with a registered dietitian, registered nurse or pharmacist.

If you need hypoallergenic infant formula, you may be limited to buying a maximum of seven to 10 days' supply.

If it is hard for you to access a pharmacy (for example, if you live in a remote community), your pharmacy can make an exception regarding the supply limit.

What you can do

Reserve specialized infant formulas for babies with allergies and medical conditions.

If you have a baby on a specialized formula, speak to a health-care professional, such as a doctor, nurse practitioner, registered dietitian, or pharmacist, to discuss your baby's needs They can suggest different formulas and tell you how to transition your baby to them.

It's normal for babies to take time adjusting to a new formula. They may become gassy or fussy, but this should improve in a few days. Speak to a health care provider if you have questions. Call 9-1-1 for any severe symptoms, including:

  • vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • generalized hives
  • loss of consciousness
  • severe diarrhea (sometimes with blood in poop)

For more information on symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and what to do, visit HealthLinkBC's Severe Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis).

If you are combining bottle-feeding and breastfeeding, try to maintain your breastmilk supply. Talk to a health care provider if you need advice about an allergen-free diet.

What you should not do

  • Do not buy more infant formula than you need. There is no shortage of regular infant formulas in Canada.
  • Do not make homemade infant formula. It can put your baby's health at serious risk.
  • Do not dilute or water down infant formula to extend its use. This dilutes the nutritional content of the formula and puts your baby's health at risk.
  • Do not use formula from other countries unless they are approved by Health Canada.
  • Do not use infant formula from online or unknown sources.
  • Do not use breast milk from online sources or directly from other individuals.
  • Do not substitute other beverages for infant formula, such as:
    • Cow's milk
    • Goat's milk
    • Evaporated milk
    • Fortified or unfortified plant-based beverages (soy, oat, rice, almond, coconut and cashew).

Where to find help

  • Speak to your community pharmacist for support accessing specialized infant formula.
  • Speak to a health care provider about your baby's needs, possible alternative products and how to transition your baby to them.
  • Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietitian, registered nurse or pharmacist.

What caused the shortage of specialized formulas?

This temporary shortage of specialized infant formulas is happening across Canada. A temporary closure of a large manufacturing plant in the U.S. caused the shortage. It was also caused by a recall of some formulas that the plant produces. As the plant reopens, more specialized infant formulas will be available.

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Last Updated: June 27, 2022